Alice Oswald

Falling Awake by Alice Oswald

Griffin Poetry Prize 2017
International Winner

Book: Falling Awake

Poet: Alice Oswald

Publisher: Jonathan Cape/W.W. Norton & Company

Click here to read an excerpt.

Alice Oswald

Biography

Alice Oswald lives in Devon and is married with three children. Her collections include Dart, which won the 2002 T.S. Eliot Prize, Woods etc. (Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize), A Sleepwalk on the Severn (Hawthornden Prize), Weeds and Wildflowers (Ted Hughes Award) and, most recently, Memorial, which won the 2013 Warwick Prize for Writing. ‘Dunt’, included in this collection, was awarded the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.

Judges’ Citation

“Alice Oswald’s Falling Awake presents as a dark text to (re)turn (in)to, its language of ‘… maybe the last green places[…]’ striking bright inscriptions that may have been ‘falling for a long time.’ How fortunate we are to tread the paths of myth and that which presupposes it, and us: line, image, lilt. Quite within other declarations, Oswald exalts with great nimbleness: ‘I notice the lark has a needle / pulled through its throat.’ In these poems, enclosed at times within the old enchantments of Eurydice, Orpheus and Tithonus, one wonders about the problem of being bound to place, to anything at all. And then, the problem, too, becomes a source of wonder – albeit tempered by the concise splendour of a mind that moves quickly within the confines of night and day. Falling Awake permits the reader to breach lyric time as the poet explicates the fixed architecture as it flickers by, ‘trying over and over its broken line / trying over and over its broken line.'”

Summary

Alice Oswald’s poems are always vivid and distinct, alert and deeply, physically engaged in the natural world. Mutability – a sense that all matter is unstable in the face of mortality – is at the heart of this new collection and each poem is involved in that drama: the held tension that is embodied life, and life’s losing struggle with the gravity of nature. Working as before with an ear to the oral tradition, these poems attend to the organic shapes and sounds and momentum of language as it’s spoken, as well as how it’s thought: fresh, fluid and propulsive, but also fragmentary, repetitive. These are poems that are written to be read aloud.

Note: Summaries are taken from promotional materials supplied by the publisher, unless otherwise noted.

Cold Streak

I notice a cold streak
I notice it in the sun
all that dazzling stubbornness
of keeping to its clock

I notice the fatigue of flowers
weight down by light
I notice the lark has a needle
pulled through its throat

why don’t they put down their instruments?
I notice they never pause
I notice the dark sediment of their singing
covers the moors like soot blown under a doorway

almost everything here has cold hands
I notice the wind wears surgical gloves
I notice the keen pale colours of the rain
like a surgeon’s assistant

why don’t they lift their weight
and see what’s flattened underneath it?
I notice the thin meticulous grass,
thrives in this place

From Falling Awake by Alice Oswald
Copyright © Alice Oswald 2016

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Photo credit: Kate Mount